COMMENDABLESnSentimental JourneynJean-Luc Daval: Avant-nGarde Art 1914-1939; Skira/nRizzoli International; New York.nWhat comes to mind whennreading the title of this imposingnvolume? Picasso or LenCorbusier? Matisse or Bauhaus?nCubism or expressionism? Surrealismnor constructivism andnProletKult? Dada or more refinednforms of abstraction?nA strange overcrowding ofnour visual consciousness makesnan answer quite difficult. However,nwe at the Chronicles ofnCulture tend to be victims ofna more confusing impression:nto us the code word avant-gardenhas become so emaciated, devalued,nstripped of significance,ndepreciated and reduced to thenpoint of cultural grotesquerienthat we can no longer use it inngood faith. Only for a pastnoccurrence does it have anynmeaning—which, of course, isna doleful paradox.nMr. Daval, who is a dean atnthe Swissfco/e Superieure d’ArtnViseul in Geneva (and the editornof Skira Annual), tells thenstory best by way of the titlesnof some of his chapters: “ThenCrisis of Representation, 1914-n1918,” “Art for Life’s Sake,n1925-1929,” “Dreams of Deceits,n1937-1939.” Let’s qualifynthat: he tells the story onlynto a certain extent, for verynlittle, if anything, is said aboutnhow avant-garde’s infatuationnwith the ideological and polit^nical left turned many of itsnartistic achievements into anfool’s errand and a fool’s paradise,nand made many 20th-centurynartists vulnerable, betrayed,neven ridiculous quarries for annassortment of Lenins, Stalinsnand wealthy art connoisseursnwith cynically tailored “socialnconsciences.” Avant – gardenserved radical causes slavishly,npartly because of its intellectualnfaiblesse, and partly counting onnthe enlightened benignity of thendictatorship of the proletariat,nonce it began to create its newnand better world. The rest wasna nightmare that only the Russiannavant-gardists who perishednin Gulags know the truth about,nwherever their souls nownwander.nThe volume is fabulouslynprinted in Switzerland by Skira,nthe most famous of publishingnhouses that specialize in artnreproduction. What makes Skiranso superior is hard to discern,nbut we have a palpable feelingnof unmatched excellence as ourneyes move from Matisse’s “Ladynin Blue” on the jacket (the originalnis in Philadelphia’s Museumnof Art) through the entire displaynof color reproductions innthis visually superb tome. DnRefreshingnSimplicitynEdward Teller: The Pursuitnof Simplicity; Pepperdine UniversitynPress; Malibu, California.nIt has been said that the testnof a great mind is whether itsnowner is able to communicatencomplexities in a fashion simplenenough to be understood bynothers. This is exactly what Dr.nTeller has done in The Pursuitnof Simplicity.nIn the five chapters that makenup this slim volume, originallynpresented as a lecture series atnPepperdine University, Dr.nTeller explains various facets ofnscientific theory from Ptolemynto Einstein, and somehow itnall emerges in a form which isnboth interesting and understandable.nEvery schoolboy knowsnabout Newton and the apple,nGalileo and his “heresy,” butnfew are aware of many of thendiverse factors which affectednRemembering TrumannOff the Record: The PrivatenPapers of Harry Truman;nEdited by Robert H. Ferrell; Harpern& Row; New York.nThe publication of PresidentnTruman’s diary is a welcome,nif not a dramatic, addition tonour knowledge of the 40’s andn50’s. There are no really stunningnrevelations, though a fewnhigh-flying theories, mostly constructednby Truman’s enemies,nwill suffer well-deserved crashes.nThis is a collection of scatterednnotes rather than a day-to-daynrecord, and some years of Mr.nTruman’s Presidency have onlyna few entries. But the diarynshows something of the President’snthoughts and opinions.nSome of the things Truman confidednto his diary and the lettersnhe wrote to blow off steam—butnnever sent—might have causedna sensation at that time. Basically,nhowever, Harry Trumannwas the kind of man the Americannpeople thought he was.nThere are some interestingnthings, and confirmation for thenopinions of some earlier historians.nTruman’s diary makesnclear, for example, that he wasnquite slow to become alarmednabout the Soviets in 1945, butnthat he did hope that the A-bombnwould cause Japan to surrendernbefore the Soviets invaded Man­nnntheir work. Dr. Teller even letsnus know about the mistakes, thenerroneous conclusions of mennlike Pythagoras and Copernicus.nIt is evident that Dr. Teller’snunderstanding reaches well beyondnthe laboratory, that he isnhardly the “mad bomb-builder”nthat liberal cultural historiansnhave made him out to be. Hisnthoughtful analysis is a refreshingnchange from the smolderingnrhetoric of the antinuke rabblerousers.n(BK) nnchuria. But the elaborate conspiratorialntheories concoctednabout the bomb are also refuted.nSo is the claim, made by liberalsnwho blamed the President fornthe failure to pass Fair Deal legislation,nthat Truman was notnreally a liberal. Though Trumanndisliked what he called “professionalnliberals,” his liberalismnwas quite genuine. His supportnfor civil rights was not a ploy,nand he disliked the conservativenand Southern wing of hisnparty. He seems to have viewednall the Southern Democraticnleaders, except for Senator RichardnRussell, with contempt.nIt is interesting to note thatnTruman’s distaste for Mac-nArthur seems to have gone backnas far as 1945, but the Presidentnhad at least some inclination towardncarrying out MacArthur’snprogramin Korea in 1951-1952.nIf there are still people whonthink that Truman was soft onncommunism, let them read thisnbook. Truman came to hate thenSoviets deeply and bitterly,nthough in the perspective of anquarter of a centuiy it is clearnthat he overrated his success inndealing with them.nHarry Truman may not havenbeen one of our greatest Presidents,nbut this book shows whynpeople rightly remember himnwith a respect that most of ournMI^^MS?nMay/June 1981n